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Chinese Custom--012: The Chinese New Year Spring Festival - Jan 23,2012/Jan 26, 2006/Jan 21, 2001
Today --Jan 23, 2012 is Chinese New Year's Day, I would like to introduce something aboutChinese New Year.

Below are three articles that I wrote on Chinese New Year's Eve or Chinese New Year's Day 2001, 2005 and 2006, and I edited today in 2012.   

For Chinese New Year's Day is accounted by the lunar calendar, it is different every year. This year is Jan 23, 2012, it was Jan 24 in 2001. This year is the year of dragon and next year is the Year of the Snake. :-)

I do hope that my effort will be some help with you to know more about Chinese cutlures.


Article 1: Chinese Custom--012: The Chinese New Year Spring Festival

The Chinese New Year celebration is also called the Spring Festival.

Chinese New Year's Day is different in China every year because it is determined by the lunar calendar. It is the most important day of celebration in China. It usually continues for about 15 days from its start.

To most Chinese people, the Spring Festival is a time to reunite with family. No matter who he is, or where he is, for as long as possible, the Chinese person, will come back home to spend the festival with his family. The whole family will be together and will stay up late on New Year's Eve --- waiting for the bell sounds of the New Year. Then, people will set off firecrackers. In most areas, especially in north part of China, people will start to eat Jiaozi following the ding of the New Year.

Spring Festival is also a good time to connect with personal feelings. The main way to do this is to Pay a New Year's Call. Most people will start to pay a new year's call on New Year's Day. The typical way to do this is first is to visit the parents, then friends, then colleagues... People usually bring gifts. The older people, especially the parents or grandparents, will send children money given as a lunar New Year gift. Usually, it is in a red paper bag.

Red is the main color during Spring Festival. From lanterns on the gates and other decorations to firecrackers at night and gifts in the hands of people, most everything is red in color. The Spring Festival makes China red everywhere. It is the symbol of luck, happiness, and success.

There are many different customs and ways of celebrating Spring Festival in different places. I hope to introduce them to you in next article. :-)

Note: The photoes in the articles were taken by my formal office on the New Year's Eve 2001.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, welcome to write to or ,you can also publish your opinions on Message Board . :-)   

--Shirley Zhang

Jan 23,2012/Jan 26, 2006/Jan 21, 2001


Article 2: Chinese Custom--006: The Main Custom Of Spring Fasitval

Hi, friends, Today - Jan 23, 2012, is Chinese New Year's day.

Chinese New Year's is also called Chinese Spring Festival and it is the oldest and the most important festival of China. It is on the first day of the first month of the lunar year. It started from the activities to offer sacrifice to gods or ancestors from Yin Dynasty (B.C. 14 century - B.C.11 century). When the Spring Festival comes, that means that the winter has past and the spring will come, everything is getting new and a new year's planting will be started. So, people wanted to celebrate this festival with songs and dances and so on. I have written something about Spring Festival. Now, I would like to write something more to introduce some custom of China's Spring Festival to you and hope it is some help with you to learn Chinese cultures.

Swept and Garnished :
From the 7th day before the Eve of the Spring Festival, people start to clean everywhere for sweeping all of the bad, poor things out of the door and to welcome a new starting with a clean work room, home and also a clean individual -- so people are used to have showers, clean hair before 0:00 of the Eve of Spring Festival... :-)

Going Shopping:
Within the last 10 days before the Spring Festival. People have a great "duty" to go shopping: food, gifts for family, relatives and friends and new clothes and caps for children are something mainly to buy. :-)

Attaching Spring Festival Scrolls:

To attach some spring festival scrolls or paper-cut for window decoration, to hang up some red lanterns by the gate or attach a big "Fu" -- "Blessing" word on the door means that luck has come into a family or a company inside. :-)

This consuetude started about 1000 years ago, but then, its original form is "Tao Fu".

It is said that in Chinese ancient fable, there is a golden rooster on a mountain in the Ghostdom. Every morning, as soon as the rooster sings, all of the ghosts have to come back the ghostdom. By the gate of the Ghostdom standing two god men, name "Shen Tu" and "Yu Lei". If any ghost has done anything bad in the night, both of them will take and tie him/her, then to send him/her to be eaten by a tiger. So, all ghosts scare Shen Tu and Yu Lei. So, people carve their features with peach wood boards and hung on the gate during lunar New Year. The peach wood boards are called "Tao Fu".

Until the Song Dynasty (A. D.960- A. D.1279), people started to write Spring Festival Scrolls on the peach wood boards. One side, it can still keep the meaning of the Taofu, the other side, it can express people's own good wishes, the third side that can decorate a house or a home. :-)

Right now, this custom has been changed to write the Spring Festival Scrolls on the red paper as you have seen on the doors or gates in China and Chinatown on your side. :-)

Firing Firecracker:

Spring Festival is also called "Guo Nian" that means "to spend the New Year". In ancient Chinese tale, Nian -- Year is an animal that brings people luckless. As soon as it comes, the trees and plants will wither; as soon as it passes, everything in the world will grow and fresh flowers will blossom everywhere. Then, how can people make Nian -- Year pass soon? To fire firecracker and drive it. away. So, you find as soon as the New Year’s bell starts to ring, firecracker sounds start at the same time at 0:00 when Spring Festival starts.

Right now, many cities in China fire skyrocket by the local governments instead of to fire firecrackers by residents themselves. :-)   

Family Reuniting :
Spring Festival is a day that families reunite. Most of children who are in the other places will come back home. In the Eve of the Spring Festival, all of the family members have a reunited dinner. All of the family stay up late or all night in the New Year's Eve to wait for the New Year comes.

Eating "Jiaozi","Niangao"and Traditional Food

In the North of China, people have the custom to eat "Jiao zi". Both of the two words means "gather each other" . In the South of China, people have the habit to eat Nian Gao -- Nice Cake. Via the way to eat Niangao to look forward the life in the new year sweet and be imporved better.

To Visit Family, Relatives and Friends to Wish them A Happy New Year:

Along the first dinging of the New Year, the firecrackers start to sound and new year starts. The members in the family start to give the older people New Year's greeting . The older ones will give the children some gift or money in a red paper bag as a lunar New Year gift. From the second day, people start to visit relatives and friends, to offer sacrifice ancestors... until 5th day, most of people re-start to work and until 15th day, after the festival of lanterns. A Spring Festival finally has past. :-)

Ok, there are also many different habitudes in different places and in different nations. This year, I just introduce something over for you. I am looking forward to meet you in a new year and wish you   and your family have a happy new year with many smiles, much good luck.

By the way, from Chinese New Year's Day, Chinese will finish a Rooster year and enters Dog Year. About this, I have written something to introduce Chinese Shenxiao and hope you enjoy it. :-)

Also hope my little wet site keep until next year with a good luck as well. :-)

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you are welcome to write to or leave your message on Message Board.

Shirley Zhang
Jan 23, 2012/Jan 27, 2006(Chinese Time)


Article 3: Chinese Custom--011: Know Something about Chinese Shenxiao --Zodiac in the Year of the Dragon

According to Chinese traditional calendar, 2012 is the year of the dragon. That means the children who are born since today -- Chinese New Year's Day (Jan 23, 2012) to next Chinese New Year's Day, their Chinese Shengxiao / Zodiac is "dragon".

There are 12 Shengxiao / Zodiac in our Chinese cultures. It is a way to record year in China.

Since Eastern Han Dynasty, about 25 A.D., we have been using 12 animals to represent 12 Earthly Branches while to symbolize the years.

The 12 Earthly Branches and the 12 animals are:

Zi --Rat, Chou --Ox, Yin --Tiger, Mou---Rabbit, Chen --Dragon, Si --Snake,Wu --Horse,Wei -- Sheep, Shen --Monke,You --Rooster, Xu --Dog, Hai ---Pig

Our tradition suggests that a person born in some year resembles some animal. For example, Philip was born in Chen year, his symbolization is Dragon. Migs was born in Yin year, his symbolization is Tiger. Every 12 years, there is another dragon year and another tiger year...

Since 1911, we have also used the Gregorian calendar to record the time, so we correspond the Shenxiao with the Gregorian calendar. For example, the Chen year may be the year 2000, and the Yin year may be 1974.

People's personality characteristics are linked to the year they were born.

1. Rat Year:

...1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008...

Basic characteristics: Emotional and Opportunistic

The rat is clever, sensitive and always cares for his lover. He is ready to face challenges. Whenever there is difficulty, he will try to do his best to work it out.

2. Ox Year:

... 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997...

Basic Characteristics: Powerful and Faithful

Ox is a man of good leadership who always believe in the saying, “Look before you leap.” He also has a positive attitude towards his work and cares about his family.

3. Tiger Year:

... 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 ...

Basic Characteristic: Independent and Optimistic

He is well organized and often works alone. He is lucky and will enjoy success but refrain from being too self-centred.

4. Rabbit Year:

... 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999...

Basic Characteristics: Honest and Elegant

Rabbit is well received by others but may at times cause envy. He is particularly able in design and creative work.

5. Dragon Year:

...1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000...

Basic Characteristics: Confident and Idealistic

The Dragon is a symbol of luck, virtue, peace and long-life. He will do everything to make his dreams come true. He is also passionate, brave and generous.

6. Snake Year:

... 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 ...

Basic Characteristics: Attractive and romantic

He is equipped with exceptional judgement and is conscientious. He is always well groomed.

7. Horse Year:

... 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002....

Basic Characteristics: Optimistic and A Good Leader

The Horse is kind-hearted and liked by others. He always works in his way and seldom accepts the opinion of others. He is good at managing his money but not his love affairs.

8. Sheep Year:

...1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003...

Basic Characteristics: Kind-hearted and Artistic

The Goat is elegant and charming. He loves nature. He is much stronger than he looks. He loves his family. He needs to try to be more creative and responsible.

9. Monkey Year:

...1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1922 2004 …

Basic Characteristics: Naughty but Clever

The Monkey is an intelligent person with good memory. He acts like a politician in a way that he can avoid falling into traps. He takes every opportunity to show off his ability. He can also perform is duties.

10. Rooster Year:

...1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 ...

Basic Characteristics: Outspoken and High Profile

The Rooster does not trust anyone, but he is ready to give advice and support others. He pays much attention to his appearance. He is born to be lucky and his life is full of resources. As a woman, she has some original ideas about colors.

11. Dog Year:

...1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 ...

Basic Characteristics: Frank but Pessimistic

The dog is eager to find out the truth. He is faithful and ready to serve others. That is why he can easily gain their respect.

12. Pig Year:

...1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 ...

Basic Characteristics: Fair but Materialistic

The pig is brave, thoughtful, polite, considerate and ready to help. He is also reliable and thus makes a lot of friends from different areas. His diligence and hard work pave the way for his great success.

In other countries, there are similar ways of recording the year. In India, there are mouse, ox, lion, rabbit, viper, horse, goat, macaque, rooster, dog and pig. In Greece and Egypt there are bull, goat, lion, donkey, crab, snake, dog, rat (in Egypt is cat), crocodile, flamingo, ape and eagle.

Could you please let me know about recording years in your country?

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you are welcome to write to or leave your message on Message Board.

Shirley Zhang
Jan 23, 2012/Sep 1, 2005/Aug, 2000(Chinese Time)